Amaretto has been a staple in Italian cooking for centuries especially for desserts and to flavour coffee. It’s s surprising, then, to know that it didn’t make it to North American liquor cabinets and drinking establishments until the 1960s. Amaretto has, however, maintained its place as a favourite cordial and cooking ingredient since its first inception.

As legend has it, amaretto was first created back in The Renaissance by a beautiful young innkeeper in Saronno, Italy. In 1525, the citizens of Saronno were completing the reconstruction of their city which was hit hard by war. Bernardino Luini (a member of the Leonardo da Vinci School of Art) was commissioned by the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Saronno to paint a fresco of the Adoration of the Magi which included the Madonna.

Luini, passionate about his work and art, went on a lengthy search for the perfect model to represent his Madonna. He found that looking for someone who was patient, poised and beautiful was an arduous task until he first laid his artistic glance on the fair-haired innkeeper.

It was only a matter of time before the young innkeeper fell deeply and passionately in love with the artist. Her love was so deep that she created a special potion for her lover: amaretto. Unfortunately, the young innkeeper’s name has been lost, but her likeness and amaretto recipe lives on.

Since its first inception in 1525, the recipe for amaretto has reportedly remained unchanged. Today, Amaretto is carefully crafted with high-quality natural ingredients like absolute alcohol, burnt sugar and the pure essence of 17 selected fruits herbs and fruits soaked in an apricot kernel oil.

Use amaretto in these favourite recipes from Food Network Canada chefs: